I have been a refugee of Arab lands since 1967, when Libya's Jewish citizens became persona non grata, suffering expulsion and then the dispersion that followed.
On June 30th, 1967 a Friday, at 4:30 AM the Jewish community of Libya was transported to the airport and body-searched before boarding an *Alitalia plane with only £20 and one suitcase allotted to each person.
*(A grateful thank you to the Humanity of good souls in the Alitalia & other companie who facilitated a safe exodus)
My widowed mother with her four children found herself among thousands of others in the middle of an Italian refugee camp in Latina, south of Rome. Others were sent to a camp in Capua, near Naples. What sustained us was only the generosity of the American Joint Distribution Committee and the International Caritas organization.
While living in the camp, we were offered jobs. I cleaned showers for pay. I also worked outside the camp as a laborer harvesting grapes in neighboring vineyards. There I learned how to cure ripe grapes at the top of each bunch of the trellis without smudging their protective film and how to harvest Sangiovese red grapes in baskets or wooden boxes to prevent fruit spoilage and premature oxidation. My earnings allowed me to attend and graduate from the International Language Center since I had already started English courses back in Tripoli. I wanted to work for the UN or to become a stewardess.
Within a year, our family rented a flat in Latina. We worked and made new friends, then subsequently relocated to Rome, where we started over again. There, I went to beauty school and worked as a shampoo girl, and also worked in a gift shop selling silk scarves and leather gloves.
By 1970, I moved to a kibbutz in Israel, where I lived for one year. In 1971, I worked for El Al Airlines on a manual for the then-new jumbo jets. I also got married. By 1973, we had moved to Los Angeles where I have lived ever since, raising our family.
A graphic design education landed me a job at Disney Studios as an inker, until the department closed. I transitioned, working mainly in administration, art education and catering for Jewish institutions. Presently, I render events and passages from the Psalms and Torah, illustrating them through art.
I honor my wonderful parents, who instilled in me and in my siblings a strong faith in Judaism and the essence of Torah and Talmud through their exemplary actions. In my parent's household, hospitality, community, and charity were a way of life passed down through generations.
I derived strength, happiness, and practicality from my mother. She now lives in Eretz Yisrael. Harmony and generosity I have inherited from my father.
Until today, I am enveloped in Libya's physical essence through food, color, clothing, music, and its scents - jasmine (Fel), orange blossoms (Zahar), and geranium (Atar).